The mountain, Cerro Aconcagua, or simply Aconcagua, is located in Argentina, close to Chile’s border. There is no higher mountain in the Western Hemisphere than Aconcagua. Its highest peak is over 6,706 meters (22,000 feet) tall, while the precise height is unknown.
DifficultyAmong the Seven Summits, the seven tallest mountains on the seven continents, the Aconcagua trek is a firm favorite among mountaineers. In fact, after Mount Everest, it is the second most often scaled of the seven peaks. It is mainly because, despite its height, Mount Everest is widely regarded as a very straightforward mountain to climb, earning it the title of tallest “trekking peak” worldwide. But its location and height mean that altitude sickness is the primary difficulty climbers face.Each year, climbers of varying abilities take on the mountain’s most popular routes. In contrast, technical climbing prowess isn’t required to make the journey. A strong level of cardiovascular fitness is essential.
PreparationTo successfully summit Aconcagua, you’ll need to set aside roughly 20 days of your life. The most important thing about climbing Aconcagua is your physical health, especially the strength of your legs. Consistent training for four to six months before the climb is recommended. It includes building stamina by jogging or cycling, weight training to build strength and muscle, and acclimatizing to carrying weight. At least some of your ascent will likely involve having a bag.For most popular routes, no technical preparation is needed because it is mostly trekking Aconcagua, but if you intend to climb any of the lesser-known ways, make sure you are familiar with equipment like crampons and ropes. Once again, altitude sickness is the biggest problem for mountaineers. Thus it’s crucial to factor in several acclimatization days before continuing your trek. You might also consider getting travel or hiking insurance if something goes wrong.
RoutesSeveral main paths on Aconcagua are heavily traveled and relatively easy. Then there are the fewer climbed routes, which call for technical prowess that only seasoned mountaineers possess. Two of the most popular paths are the “Normal Route” and the “Polish Traverse,” with the former being more superficial than the latter.
- The “Normal Route” is a long walk that ascends the northwest ridge in a direct ascent. Starting in the Lower Horcones Valley, hikers take 18 days to reach Plaza de Mulas, 14,980 feet (4,260 meters) above sea level. The mountain is covered in rocks, stones, and loose scree, and there are three camps spread out along the path, which can lead to dust storms when the winds pick up.
- The Polish Traverse begins on the mountain’s opposite side, crosses it, and rejoins the Normal Route around 3,280 feet from the summit. As this route is more challenging than the Normal Route, crampons and ice axes may be necessary at certain spots.
- Another common but more complex approach is the Polish Glacier. This route shares the first part of its path with the Polish Traverse but then diverges to take a more direct approach to the peak. Experienced mountaineers would know to be wary of crevasses and deep snow when climbing Aconcagua on the Polish Glacier, despite its stunning vistas.